2018 Reading List: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

I wonder if the author’s name should have been a warning.

I am still haunted by this book. I signed up for a self-defense class because of this book. Pretty Girls, by Karin Slaughter, contained every detail of my biggest fears and my worst nightmares. I read those gruesome details and then laid awake all night, afraid to fall asleep and dream those nightmares.

Not to scare you off or anything. 

This was a serious murder mystery thriller from the first chapter to the last. It was like those times when you see a dead animal on the side of the road as you drive by and you really don’t want to look at the roadkill but you can’t help yourself. I didn’t really want to read about serial rape and the murders of young women, but I couldn’t pull myself away.

Maybe I should have read the book jacket first. I might have been a little less shocked at the plot and contents of this novel.

Nevertheless, I read this cover to cover, mostly in airports and on planes, and in a hotel room, in which I got the worst night of sleep ever.

This book was about missing girls, and the two women who tried to solve the mystery. Claire Scott has recently been released from jail after getting out some anger issues in a fight with her friend. Other than that, she is a typical rich, privileged housewife. She meets her husband out for drinks, after which they start to get a little crazy in a back alleyway. They get mugged and the perpetrator kills her husband in front of her very eyes.

While at the funeral, Claire’s house is broken into. This sets in motion the dominos for the rest of the story. In going through the items in the house, she finds odd things her husband has set up – or hidden. She finds a hard drive that contains what appears to be violent porn. She finds a box full of surveillance information about dozens of women, one of whom is her estranged sister. She also has to deal with some odd investigators – police and FBI whom she almost instantly doesn’t trust.

Poor Claire, always just trying to do the right thing. She tried to take the violent porn to the police after she suspected it might actually be real. But the police cut her off and told her not to worry.

But Claire is worried, because the girl in the film looks like a girl on the news who was just reported missing. And Claire has a certain affinity to missing girls, ever since her own oldest sister disappeared almost 20 years ago and was never found.

Claire pulls her estranged sister, Lydia, into this whole mess. Together, they start to uncover Claire’s husbands secrets.

The thing is, they never suspect him until it’s almost too late.

And guess what (Spoiler Alert):

He’s not dead! 

Even as I am writing out this overly simplified plot, I’m realizing how ridiculous it sounds that I was so terrified by it. It’s impossibly unrealistic. It’s absurd that any girl would go missing (let alone dozens of them), and the police would brush off the disappearance as nothing, not following through on the investigation, and would ultimately turn out to be involved in and responsible for the rape, murder, and cover-up of that girl. The person who is the mastermind behind the whole operation staged his own death in front of his wife? Really?

This book was fucked up, but Slaughter knows how to write a thriller to top the charts.

I do think that the overall murder-mystery plot was probably the best part of the book. The characters themselves were pretty terrible, in my opinion. I think Claire is supposed to grow from a wimpy housewife into this tough, I-can-handle-this type of woman. And I guess she does, technically. But she’s pretty useless the entire book until the very end when she goes ape-shit. There is no growth, there’s just a sudden crazy that pops out.

She and Lydia also go about their whole crime-solving scheme pretty terribly too. They jump to conclusions so fast. They jump in their car to drive places so fast. They’re just altogether dumb. It’s logical that they should have gone through all of the stacks of papers and boxes of stuff that Paul had in the house. Common sense would tell them that they should check all the files on the computers and hard drives, they should review all of the data on the flash drive. They should have asked better questions, withheld information until they had more answers, tried to get to the bottom of things before rushing around like children on a treasure hunt.

Instead, they trust the wrong people, they don’t have all the information, they accuse people who could help them, and they dig themselves deeper into trouble just by lacking some common sense.

That was my only complaint – I was so frustrated with the way they handled information. They could have saved themselves a lot of time and literal pain if they had just thought things through a bit better.

I only give this book four stars instead of five because of how graphic and gruesome some of the scenes are. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

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